Toxic parts

Skin contact with the sap can cause photosensitivity and/or dermatitis in some people[1][2][3]. Parsnip is said to contain the alleged 'psychotroph' myristicine[3].

Edible uses


Root - raw or cooked[4][5][6][7][8][9]. When well grown, the cooked root has a very tender texture, though it is rather chewy raw[K]. It is best harvested after there have been some autumn frosts because it will have developed a sweeter flavour[10]. The root is delicious baked, it can also be used in soups etc and can be added to cakes, pies and puddings[9].

Leaves and young shoots - cooked with other greens as a vegetable or added to soups etc[7][9]. Used in early spring[7].

The seed is used as a condiment[7]. Similar in taste to dill[9].

Unknown part


Material uses

The leaves and roots are used to make an insect spray[11]. Roughly chop the leaves and roots, put them in a basin with enough water to cover, leave them overnight then strain and use as an insecticide against aphids and red spider mite[12].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

A tea made from the roots has been used in the treatment of women's complaints[13]. A poultice of the roots has been applied to inflammations and sores[13]. The root contains xanthotoxin, which is used in the treatment of psoriasis and vitiligo[13]. Xanthotoxin is the substance that causes photosensitivity (see note above on toxicity)[13].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - sow from late winter to late spring in situ. Seed can be slow to germinate, especially from the earlier sowings[14], it is best to mark the rows by sowing a few radishes with the parsnips. The seed has a short viability, very few will still be viable 15 months after harvesting[14].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Pastinaca sativa. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.




Succeeds in most ordinary well-drained soils[15]. Requires an open situation[16]. Prefers a deep rich soil that is not too stiff[17].

The parsnip is often cultivated in the temperate zone for its edible root, there are a number of named varieties[18][9][14]. Normally cultivated as a winter root crop, some cultivars are faster to mature and can be available in late summer[14]. The roots are very frost hardy and can be left in the ground to be harvested as required, though they can also be lifted in the autumn and stored for a few months[14]. The flowers are very attractive to hover flies and predatory wasps[12]. Plants have very few insect pests, though they are sometimes attacked by carrot root fly[12]. Growing onions with the parsnips can reduce the damage[12].

Roots of the wild form can quite quickly be increased in size by selective breeding and good cultivation, it is possible to obtain good sized roots in only 6 years.

Additional information for Parsnip